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JAY-Z dropped 4:44 on June 30 and left the Internet shook. But no one could have prepared themselves for the pen of Candice Benbow, who in a poignant response piece published to her blog on Tuesday left Black women (and men) in shambles.

It’s an open letter to toxic lovers and the baggage left over when unloving, unhealthy and uneven relationships end. For Black women, relationships often come at the expense of their own well-being. “We pay with our bodies,” Benbow writes. “Sometimes our lives. And even in that trauma, we still find ways to sow deeper into the love we have for you, hoping it will get better.”

“As much as I love the album, I had to confront why 4:44 was making me uncomfortable,” Benbow tells CASSIUS. “Then it hit me—I don’t know what it’s like to experience this level of growth from the man I love. So I wrote ‘4:43’ to address my own feelings and find a way to heal.”

CASSIUS rounded up five salient quotes from Benbow’s powerful piece. Check them out below, then read “4:43” in full.

1“I’m glad you’ve grown and are finding your way. But how am I supposed to celebrate growth that happened at my expense? What am I to make of a strength, nourished by food I cooked and dreams I fed, that I’ll never experience? There are far too many of us doing the emotional labor of birthing men we’ll never get to have and hold.”

Body rolling and singing “I ain’t sorry” knowing I’m lying. Knowing I’d willingly accept responsibility if it meant starting over. But we’re never supposed to say that out loud. It betrays all nouveau riche expressions of Black feminism and articulations of self-love.

2“I wonder if you realize the cost we pay for loving men like you. My anxiety. Bey’s miscarriages. My cousin’s hair loss. Your homegirl’s weight gain. Depression. Suicidal ideation. Substance abuse. Retail therapy and maxed credit cards. Entertaining niggas we don’t even like just to feel wanted. So many forms of self-harm. We pay with our bodies. Sometimes our lives. And even in that trauma, we still find ways to sow deeper into the love we have for you, hoping it will get better.”

3“My girls came over, trying to cheer me up. Body rolling and singing ‘I ain’t sorry’ knowing I’m lying. Knowing I’d willingly accept responsibility if it meant starting over. But we’re never supposed to say that out loud. It betrays all nouveau riche expressions of Black feminism and articulations of self-love.”

4“We 0:00-4:43 girls aren’t supposed to have any country for men like you because you don’t deserve it. And yet here we all are. With visceral reactions to an album that reminds us how we never got to ‘4:44’- all you gave us was ‘Song Cry’.”

5“I will encourage every sister to be unafraid of asking questions for fear that they may say the wrong thing too early. I will tell them to run from men who cannot show proof that they are actually doing the work to be well.”


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